Little, Brown and Company
An extraordinary portrait of true love that will move anyone who has a first love story of their own.
Axi Moore is a "good girl": She studies hard, stays out of the spotlight, and doesn't tell anyone how all she really wants is to run away from it all. The only person she can tell is her best friend, Robinson—who she also happens to be madly in love with.
When Axi spontaneously invites Robinson to come with her on an impulsive cross-country road trip, she breaks the rules for the first time in her life. But the adventure quickly turns from carefree to out of control after the teens find themselves on the run from the police. And when Robinson suddenly collapses, Axi has to face the truth that this trip might be his last.
A remarkably moving tale very personal to James Patterson's own past, FIRST LOVE is testament to the power of first love—and how it can change the rest of your life.
Little, Brown and Company
“WHAT ARE YOU DOING?” I HISSED AS Robinson led us down one of the nearby side streets. His legs are about twice as long as mine, so I had to jog to keep up with him.
When we came to an intersection, I grabbed his arm and whirled him around to face me. Eye to eye. Scalawag to Ms. Straitlaced.
“Are you serious about this?” I said. “Tell me you’re not serious.”
He smiled. “You took care of the route. Let me take care of the ride.”
He shook off my grip and slung his arm around my shoulder, big brother–style. “Now settle down, GG, and I’ll give you a little lesson in vehicle selection.”
“A lesson in what? And don’t call me that.” It stands for Good Girl, and it drives me absolutely nuts when he says it.
Robinson pointed to a car just ahead. “Now that, see, is a Jaguar. It’s a beautiful machine. But it’s an XJ6, and those things have problems with their fuel filters. You can’t have your stolen car leaking gas, Axi, because it could catch on fire, and if you don’t die a fiery death, well, you’re definitely going to jail for grand theft auto.”
We walked on a little farther, and he pointed to a green minivan. “The Dodge Grand Caravan is roomy and dependable, but we’re adventurers, not soccer moms.”
I decided to pretend this was all make-believe. “Okay, what about that one?” I asked.
He followed my finger and looked thoughtful. “Toyota Matrix. Yeah, definitely a good option. But I’m looking for something with a bit more flair.”
By now the sun was peeking over the horizon, and the birds were up and chattering to each other. As Robinson and I walked down the leafy streets, I felt the neighborhood stirring. What if some guy stepped outside to grab the newspaper and saw us, two truants, suspiciously inspecting the neighborhood cars?
“Come on, Robinson,” I said. “Let’s get out of here.” I was still hoping we’d make the bus. We had ten minutes left.
“I just want the perfect thing,” he said.
At that moment, we saw a flash in the corner of our eyes. It was brown and fast and coming toward us. I gasped and reached out for Robinson.
He laughed and pulled me close. “Whoa, Axi, get a grip. It’s only a dog.”
My heart was thrumming. “Yeah, I can see that… now.”
I could also now see it wasn’t likely to be an attack dog, either. He was a small thing, with matted, shaggy fur. No collar, no tags. I took a step forward, my hand extended, and the dog flinched. He turned around and went right up to Robinson instead (of course) and licked his hand. Then the darn thing lay down at his feet. Robinson knelt to pet him.
“Robinson,” I said, getting impatient, “Greyhound bus or stolen car, the time is now.”
He didn’t seem to hear me. His long, graceful hands gently tugged on the dog’s ears, and the dog rolled onto his side. As Robinson scratched the dog’s belly, the animal’s leg twitched and his pink tongue lolled out of his little mouth in total canine ecstasy.
“You’re such a good boy,” Robinson said gently. “Where do you belong?”
Even though the dog couldn’t answer, we knew. He was skinny and his fur was clumped with mud. There was a patch of raw bare skin on his back. This dog was no one’s dog.
“I wish you could come with us,” Robinson said. “But we have a long way to go, and I don’t think you’d dig it.”
The dog looked at him like he’d dig anything in the world as long as it involved more petting by Robinson. But when you’re running away from your life and you can’t take anything you don’t need, a stray dog falls in the category of Not Necessary.
“Give him a little love, Axi,” Robinson urged.
I bent down and dug my fingers into the dog’s dirty coat the way I’d seen Robinson do, and when I ran my hand down the dog’s chest, I could feel the quick flutter of his heart, the excitement of finding a home, someone to care for him.
Poor thing, I thought. Somehow, I knew exactly what he was feeling. He had no one, and he was stuck here.
But we weren’t. Not anymore.
“We’re leaving, little buddy. I’m sorry,” I said. “We’ve just got to go.”
It was totally weird, but for some reason that good-bye hurt almost as much as the one I’d whispered to my father.
Copyright © 2014 by James Patterson
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Little, Brown and Company